[Manchester—Tuesday, 30 August 1870]

Tuesday August 30. Last Saturday we went to Nahant to dine with Longfellow. All his family were at home, except Charley who has wandered far away from that cheerful nest. Fechter went with us and during our trip down in the boat from Boston, where I was obliged to go first on business, he talked much of himself and his affairs, much too of his last visit to England. He found Katie & Mamie clinging to their aunt and fixed in their intention to live together. Poor Charles Collins is quite left out in K’s plans, but I think it is only the present insanity of her grief which causes her to feel as if she could not give him a thought. I earnestly hope all will be right with her soon in this particular for Charles is a tender devoted husband and will be more to Katy now than ever before if she can only bring herself to go back to him. Dear Dickens took a strange dislike to him during the last year or two of his life. I think it was his dreadful and continued sickness which neither exhausted the frame to death, nor ever ceased in order to allow a return to health. He could not understand the prolonged endurance of such an existence and in his passionate nature which must snap when it yielded at all, it produced disgust. His mind was so bent upon the necessity of Charles Collins’s death that Fechter says even at table he has seen him look at him as much as to say “astonishing you should be here today, but tomorrow you will be in your chamber never to come out again.” Fechter thought it most touching and lovely in Charles that he was so utterly overwhelmed with grief now, but how could he help it in looking at his poor little wife whom he loves & clings to as to no one else in this world. Wilkie Collins too, who had been seriously estranged from Dickens because of his treatment of Charles, for the brothers are deeply attached, he found a genuine mourner. Fechter is fully persuaded that Dolby was a traitor. He says he has an expensive estate in England and there is every proof of his having made much more money that he ought out of Mr. Dickens. I cannot believe anything so terrible but his treatment of Osgood leads me to see a new reason of which Fechter knew nothing until I told him, for believing it if I must. Somebody poisoned Dickens’s mind with regard to Osgood, who could it be but Dolby? And why should it be if Dolby had not accused Osgood of dishonesty in order to cover some of his own sins. But if this is so, it is worse than anything in his own books. A treachery impossible to conceive.

Fechter was shocked at the publication of the will, filled as it is with expressions fitted to give color to the senseless and cruel accusations against Miss Hogarth. He thought the money might have been conveyed some other way but I think that Mr. Dickens and Mr. Ouvry thought differently and did the best they could under the trying circumstances.

Day by day I am grateful to think of him at rest.

We found dear Longfellow looking through a glass to espy our approach and all his dear little girls and Ernest and his wife & Appleton who whisked me away from the dinner table to his studio where he had some really good sketches. The conversation at table was half french, Longfellow and Appleton both finding it agreeable to recall the foreign scenes by the foreign tongue. But except a queer imitation of John Forster by Fechter, I do not remember any quotable talk. F. said Forster always looked at everybody as if regarding their qualifications for a lunatic asylum (he is commissioner of lunacy) saying to himself—‘Well, I’ll let you off today but tomorrow you must certainly go and be shut up.” He describes Forster’s present state of health as something very precarious and wretched.

Jamie and I had an [un]usually quiet and beautiful Sunday here together. I think no season in our married life was ever more precious than that one long tender day. We saw no one except at dinner until night when we stopped at Mrs Towne’s where they hospitably gave us tea.

There was a soft grey sky and a warm wind & new moon; later the stars came out and we walked home under the clear sky.

Monday the 29. was rainy—yet warm & we walked & drove much as usual, yet with the usual unlikeness to any previous day of our existence. How strange is this variety of the days, each one so visibly leading us forward to the great change for which we are so impatient!!!

Tuesday the rain falling thickly this morning soon after I started on my walk. I was compelled to return and write here but the gay yellow sun has already returned to the earth and everything is shining in late summer loveliness.

My darling has gone to town. I am reading Plato’s Laws. Meanwhile the terrible war goes on in Europe and approaches nearer and nearer the gates of Paris. Fechter is most unhappy about it as every Frenchman must be and indeed who can help feeling a deep grief at the sorrows of this great nation. I confess I have no sympathy over the rejoicing of our people in the Prussian alliance. I did not wish to see Napoleon triumphant but to see the nation crushed and humbled and to see civilization retarded by this terrible march in to Paris is sad indeed, yet more than all for the people, the common people. Poor souls!!


National Endowment for the Humanities - Logo

Editorial work on The Brownings’ Correspondence is supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

This website was last updated on 6-15-2024.

Copyright © 2024 Wedgestone Press. All rights reserved.

Back To Top